Archive for Islamic Fundamentalism

The Town called Gojra

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2009 by Umer

What occurred in Gojra is truly shocking. The whole happening and every episode of it, from beginning to end, has exposed the hypocrisy of our society. The brutality of the crime, the flimsy pretext, the negligence of the law-enforcers, the silence of the politicians for days, and the attempts made in the mainstream media to diminish the enormity of the attacks by calling it a fight amongst two groups – these are all stark signs of our deteriorating society.

The conclusion of the fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has revealed that last week’s attacks targeting Christians in Gojra were not a spontaneous reaction to the allegation of blasphemy but were planned in advance. HRCP is correct in saying that Gojra questions the very foundation of our State and society: ‘The barbaric attacks are an embarrassment for any society or people who call themselves civilized.’

Our history as a country is replete with communal violence, which was perhaps embodied in our very creation. Leaving aside the severe discrimination that religious minorities face in Pakistan one daily basis, violent assaults on their communities are nothing new. There have been many occasions where Muslim mobs have opted to punish whole neighborhoods for an alleged act of blasphemy. One such occurrence took place in 1997 in the town called Shantinagar. Thirteen churches were ransacked and hundreds of homes belonging to Christians were destroyed by the arsonists because somebody somewhere had conducted blasphemy.

Attack on Christians in Shantinagar twelve years ago would have been another gruesome event erased from our collective memory had it not been for Eqbal Ahmed. The victims of Shantinager found expression in the pen of Eqbal Ahmed.

The story of Shantinagar, as told by Eqbal Ahmed, is as relevant today as it was in 1997. The questions that Eqbal Ahmed raises are yet to be answered. The parallels Shantinagar and Gojra show that things have not changed much since Shantinagar. Will they change in future? This is for you and me to decide.

A Town Called Shantinagar

Eqbal Ahmed
Dawn, 18 February 1997

Newspaper accounts of the terror which the fanatical mob of Muslims visited, on February 6, upon the hapless Christians of Shantinagar are quite uniform. Thirteen churches were ransacked and hundreds of homes destroyed by the arsonists. But statistics cannot convey the enormity of the crime, collectively committed by a section of the majority community, upon fellow citizens belonging to a religious minority.

Available evidence also suggests that some members of Khanewal district’s police force were involved in inciting and organising this atrocity while others were guilty of complicity as they were on-duty spectators. A few are reported to have even helped themselves to the loot. The nightmare ended only after the army arrived to enforce the law. It was the worst incident of sectarian violence in recent memory.

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Ban the Burqa?

Posted in Books & Authors, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2009 by Umer

The following article appeared in the New York Times and deals with one important debates that have erupted from the speech made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy where he stated that the Burqa is not welcome in Franch territory. While the statement made by Sarkozy may be drenched in racism, as many may argue, what should be the independent position of the Left over the issues of women’s veil? Is the Left doomed to decide its position based on the opposition of others (a position of reaction)? Or, can it have an independent and principled position of its own? How does the Left in Pakistan see the question of women’s veil?

The New York Times article discusses the issue of women’s veil from the point of view of a women’s identity as an individual. Another way of looking the issue of veil is by understanding it as an institution deeply linked with patriarchy, rather than merely as an individual choice (which may also be very important). What must also be questioned is the implication that the veil have have on the society at large.

The late Mazhar-ul-Haq Khan, Professor at Peshawar University, wrote a throughly about patriachal institutions in Muslim societies in  his book ‘Pardah and Polygmy: Social pathology of Muslim Societies’ (1972). The fundamental thesis of Mazhar-ul-Haq’s book is that the two interlinked institutions of pardah (veil) and polygamy are the main factors behind the decadence and stagnation of the Muslim societies. Not only they are based on incorrect interpretations of Islam, argued Mazhar-ul-Haq, they inculcate a sense of inhibition, fear and loss of identity in the family structures suppressing the spirit initiative, creativity, adventure, and openness in both males and females from their childhood (all of which are necessary for collective and individual progress). Why is it that Muslim societies have failed to produced men and women of science for many years? The same can be said of other fields of study, though with some variance. While the rest of the world has progressed by leaps and bounds, why are the Muslim societies still trailing behind?

These questions require us to delve deeper in the issue rather than giving knee-jerk and reaction-bases answers.

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Ban the Burqa

By MONA ELTAHAWY
Published: July 2, 2009

NEW YORK — I am a Muslim, I am a feminist and I detest the full-body veil, known as a niqab or burqa. It erases women from society and has nothing to do with Islam but everything to do with the hatred for women at the heart of the extremist ideology that preaches it.

We must not sacrifice women at the altar of political correctness or in the name of fighting a growingly powerful right wing that Muslims face in countries where they live as a minority.

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The Problem with Hizb-ut-Tahrir

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 20, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) claims to be a pan-Islamist sunni organization. It proposes that the enforcement of Khilafah over the world is a solution to the miseries that afflict mankind.

Let us examine the political and economic views of Hizb ul Tehreer. If the politics of the HT is to be put a nutshell, they are reactionaries that want to take Muslim societies back a couple of hundred years. Here are their reactionary views:

Democracy

Much like the Taliban, the Hizb ut-Tahrir rejects democracy as a western system and unislamic despite aspects of it such as elections existing in the Islamic political system. Hizb ut-Tahrir argues democracy as a system is:

the rule of people, for the people, by the people. The basis of the democratic system is that people possess the right of sovereignty, choice and implementation. … it is a Kufr system because it is laid down by man and it is not from the Shari’ah Laws.

In place of rule of by and for the people, they want to introduce the rule of by and for the mullahs. They call this the establishment of a Khilafah.

In this Khilafah non-Muslims will be prohibited from serving in any of the ruling offices, such as the position of the Caliph, nor vote for these officials, as these positions require those who fulfil them to believe in the system. Only Muslims have “the right to participate in the election of the Khaleefah [head of state] and in giving him the pledge (ba’iah). Non-Muslims have no right in this regard.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir believe Islam forbids women from ruling positions such as caliph, Chief Justice, provincial governor, or mayor citing Prophetic traditions. Article 109 of the party’s draft constitution prescribes segregation of the sexes in public activities such as school, sporting activities, etc. Article 114 of the constitution specifies that women should not be allowed to be in private with men other than their husband or members of their immediate family (father, brother, son). Article 116 stipulates that once married a woman is obliged to obey her husband.

HT says that Muslims who “have by themselves renounced Islam … are guilty of apostasy (murtad) from Islam [and] are to be executed.” That is the main pillar reserved for socialists, communists and others who may try to organize workers and peasants for a classless society.

Economy

The idiocy and reactionary nature of the HT can be guaged by their economic policy. Their ideal economic system is one in which modern economies are taken all the way back to a form of barter trade.

… it is the duty of the Khilafah State to make its currency in gold and silver and to work on the basis of gold and silver as it was during the time of the Messenger of Allah and his Khulafa’a after him

Anyone who does not have the common sense to understand that the substitution of the money economy by trade in gold and silver cannot be accomplished without utterly destroying the productive forces of modern society. To even suggest this as a serious proposition in the modern world is absolutely insane.

There is no point in going any further into their economic views since it should be blatantly obvious from this one quotation that it would be an utter waste of time.

These simple facts prove very clearly that the HT is a fundamentalist organization full of nutter, idiots, reactionary misogynist, and reactionary idiots.

Many on the Left may admonish me for using such words. They think that I must be kind courteous and polite to such organizations. They write long tracts about how the Left is isolated and unconnected to the people and that these right-wing organizations have come to represent the “aspirations of the people”. This is an utterly incorrect argument.

Mao said “We counted the mighty no more than muck.” And this is exactly what I think of these fundamentalist organizations that are reactionary to the core.

The post has been edited for clarity.

Class struggle in Swat?

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , on June 5, 2009 by Umer

This question has been raised over and over again all over the world after the news that Taliban are distributing land amongst the people in Swat. Are Taliban leading a class struggle in Swat?

Afzal Khan Lala, local leader of Awami National Party (ANP), who has militantly resisted the Taliban onslaught against all odds vehemently disagrees with the notion of class struggle. Here is an excerpt from an article by Ayesha Ijaz Khan that appeared in Counter Punch:

Afzal Khan Lala takes a clear position. Having suffered the loss of two grandsons and been ambushed by the Taliban himself, he remains steadfast in his defiance, stating categorically: “The Taliban movement is not an ideological movement. All the men of Sufi Muhammad and Maulana Fazlullah are loyal to Baitullah Mehsud. In fact, all the Taliban are loyal to Mullah Omar and most of them are criminals, looters, bandits, car snatchers, absconders and drug runners. He is the centre of gravity both for Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.”

When asked if it was a class struggle, he responded: “In class struggle between haves and have-nots, you do not become a criminal. You do not harm innocent people, snatch vehicles, dump arms and ammunition; you get popular through the force of ideology and not force. Taliban are terrorists and have no ideology.”

I agree with Khan Lala. However, I don’t say that Taliban don’t have an ideology. They have a clear ideology of reactionary pan-Islamism and they do try to exploit the local class rifts. They also find good support amongst local criminals and lumpen proletariat.The real question, then, is in whose favour do they exploit the class divisions? Is it progress or regress? Revolutionary or reactionary?

Backwards, forward, twisted around

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by Umer

The Taliban’s continuous reneging from agreements made with the government may yet turn the tide against them and enable the military to move decisively against them, which it has so far been unable, or unwilling, to do. A journalist’s notebook

Beena Sarwar Karachi Hardnews

In November 1999, like many others, I thought that the Taliban were the ‘last gasp of a dying order’. They were isolated in Afghanistan. The world largely turned a blind eye to their oppressive system imposed in the name of religion — public floggings, limb amputations and executions – for alleged moral transgressions that the Taliban saw as crimes, like adultery.

Such punishments were not entirely an aberration in the last decade of the 20th century: USA’s most allied ally, oil-rich Saudi Arabia, routinely meted out similar punishments (and continues to do so). The Taliban in Afghanistan controlled an area across which America wanted to build an oil pipeline. Until they refused to allow this, their ‘barbarism’ received little notice in the West, particularly America.

The Taliban’s attitude towards women was an extreme version of attitudes generally prevalent in the context of this region. Women across South Asia are verbally and physically abused every minute of the day, every day of the year. ‘Honour killings’ in one form or other are common all over the Middle East as well as South Asia, in addition to the ‘dowry deaths’ and female foeticide prevalent in India. At least 1,210 women were killed in Pakistan during 2008, including at least 612 in so-called ‘honour killings’ and at least 185 over domestic issues, according to the recent annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

“The malaise is more widespread than we care to acknowledge,” wrote Jawed Naqvi in his column My fanatic versus your fanatic (Dawn, reproduced in http://www.hardnewsmedia.com, after the ‘Swat flogging video’ came to public notice. Highlighting gender violence in various societies including India, he comments, “What goes for religious fanaticism elsewhere can easily mutate into caste bigotry in a country like India. Although caste-based zealotry goes largely unnoticed because of its prevalence in under-televised rural areas, it works with the brutality associated elsewhere with honour killings and violence against women generally.”

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IJT’s Another Episode of Terror

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2008 by Umer

by Rab Nawaz

Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), a by-product of Zia’s notorious military dictatorship, is famous for its hooliganism and Islamic fascism. Beating, terrorizing, thrashing, shooting, harassing the innocent students and a general hypocrisy has been the defining attributes of this socially outrageous organization. Recently it has committed another incident to make its presence felt.

This happened in Punjab University such that a newly formed student organization (about 10 months old) named University Students Federation (USF) was gaining rapid popularity mainly because of its Non-violent and Non-partisan nature. This Federation was the result of aftermath of Imran Khan’s man-handling by IJT during the last year’s emergency rule. USF was mainly centered at PU Law College and most of its leading members belonged to the Law College. Although there was a continuous series of threats and maneuvering from IJT since the formation of USF which was frequently reported to the varsity administration and media, it gained pace in the previous weak when USF started forming its structure in the varsity’s hostels. IJT could not hold back to face its hostages (hostels) being liberated. Furthermore IJT thought to have created some space by building some pressure on the administration through staging some rallies for the decrease in fees and internet facility in hostels. It is noteworthy that IJT itself had been stopping the installment of internet in hostels for previous two years on the plea that it would spread vulgarity. There has been continuous tussle between IJT and administration over this issue which mounted to beating and insulting the teachers by IJT.

In this context, on the night between 30th November and 1st December, 2008 about two dozens of IJT activists equipped with arms and sticks attacked the room no. 64 of Hostel No. 15, a major center of USF meetings. There they tried to kidnap Ch. Ahsan, Imran Sial and Hafiz Azeem but could do no more than thrashing and beating owing to the resistance by the victims and some students from the neighboring rooms. They left after giving life threats. The next day, USF activists did a demonstration on the Campus Bridge requesting safety. Administration promised to take some action but it followed nothing till the night between 2nd and 3rd December when the hostel no. 16 bathed into blood at 2:30 a.m. The events preceding this blood-bath are as follows.

At about 8:00 p.m. on 2nd December, about 50 IJT activists including a number of outsiders had a round of university hostels without any explicit purpose except show of power. When they entered hostel no. 16, they found Atif Naeem Ranjha (President of USF) standing at the newspaper stand and suddenly attacked him with severe blows and thrashing. When USF supporters from the surrounding started to approach them, they ran away. This open cruelty boiled every boarder of hostel 16 and other hostels. They came out raising slogan against IJT and blocked the Canal Road. The road remained blocked for about 2 hours until police and administrative authorities came and they ensured action against the culprits within 24 hours. This scene ended at about 11:30 p.m.After it IJT was heard to stage a protest at another side of Canal Road which was conceived as against administration but it indeed implied the delaying of lawful action against them.

Probably at their returning from the protest, they planned to end this pending story, or it may be a pre-plan, and they attacked the hostel 16. Eye-witnesses tell that they were approximately 50 in number. About 15 to 20 of them trespassed the hostel and directly raided at the rooms resided by USF activists. They were carrying pistols, guns, clubs, iron rods, wickets and bats. There they victimized Hafiz Ahsan, Asad Sajjad Gujjar, Atif Naeem Ranjha, Rai Shajar Abbas, Ali Hassan Waraich, Khurram Butt, Ali Abbas, Rana Naeem and Azhar Subhani. Hafiz Mazhar and Asad were shot with pistols while remaining received serious hurts in heads, arms, backs and legs. During this operation, the brutality of assailants exceeded to an extent that after shooing Asad in the leg, they dragged him down to the gate of the hostel from his room at second floor and battered and pummeled him there to force him to utter the slogan of “Zinda Hai Jamiat (Jamiat is alive)”. Subhani was thrown down on the ground from second floor. After they left by leaving their prints in the form of blood on the floors, broken clubs and window glasses and nine students heavily injured; the other boarders, hostel warden and employees gathered. They took the injured to the Jinnah Hospitalwhere they were operated and medicated. Hafiz Mazhar’s condition was very fragile. His vein was cut and he was recovered with great difficulty. Vice Chancellor, other authorities from varsity, police and media immediately reached the hospital. Varsity authorities announced that IJT was behind this act, police registered the FIR while media covered the whole event.

A great wave of anger spread across the campus. Hundreds of students massively boycotted the classes the next morning and arranged a procession that ended at the campus bridge after marching throughout the campus. The students were so upset and raged that they blocked the traffic, burned the tires, raised slogans against IJT and demanded immediate expulsion and arrest of alleged IJT activists. After 3 hours the students dispersed as a result of negotiation with the VC who ensured the fulfilling of the demands.

Although varsity administration and provincial government have resolved to take action but the students must realize that these fascist elements are a grave threat to the very foundations of our society. We need enlightened consciousness to fight back them at every front of the society.

 

Rab Nawaz is a student of the Punjab University Law College and an active member of the University Students Federation.

Eqbal Ahmed on Talibanization and Imperialism

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2008 by Umer

From Ammar Querishi:

I have seen that a number of our friends/colleagues are not clear about our stance on both anti-US Imperialism and anti-Talibanization. As a result, we have been entering into lot of discussions on various aspects. In order to resolve this this discussion, I am sending the following four weblinks to different articles by the late Eqbal Ahmad on US Imperialism and Talibanization. These pieces were written more than 10 years back ( Eqbal passed away in 1999 in Islamabad). All are refreshingly poignant even ten years later although some of them are so chllingly prescient. The first article deals with the rule of Taliban, the second deals with the much-touted concept of strategic depth and its implications for Pakistan. The third traces the roots of violence in a historical context. The fourth piece ( which is an excerpt from his conversations with David Barsiman which later appeared as a booklet titled Terrorism: theirs and ours) is a scathing criticism of US imperialism. However, it also talks about Osama bin Laden’s relationship with US ( this was before 9/11 but after bombings of US embassy in Africa) and points to/predicts the future direction of relationship between these two entities. All these articles are laced with Eqbal’s trademark coruscating witticism.

1) In a land without music ( Dawn, July 1995)

2) What after strategic depth (Dawn October 1998)

3) Roots of violence in Pakistan and other parts of Muslim World

4) Terrorism theirs and ours